The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

by: Lynn H. Nicholas (0)

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

The real story behind the major motion picture
The Monuments Men. The cast of characters includes Hitler and Goering, Gertrude Stein and Marc Chagall--not to mention works by artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso. And the story told in this superbly researched and suspenseful book is that of the Third Reich's war on European culture and the Allies' desperate effort to preserve it.

From the Nazi purges of "Degenerate Art" and Goering's shopping sprees in occupied Paris to the perilous journey of the
Mona Lisa from Paris and the painstaking reclamation of the priceless treasures of liberated Italy, The Rape of Europa is a sweeping narrative of greed, philistinism, and heroism that combines superlative scholarship with a compelling drama.

The Reviews

UPDATE (July 20, 2016): I ended up putting down this book about 1/3 of the way through in exasperation because it just became this muddled mess. You practically need a flowchart to make all the connections which the author hops forward and backwards to and I reverted to making note cards to remember all the key players involved. The subject matter is fascinating but despite wanting to learn more about art theft during WWII, I found myself conducting so much marginalia that I myself was practically writing a compendium. There are so many ways the author could have assisted the reader but essentially reading this book becomes a research project. I'd like to think that I'm smarter than the average bear but I think this book is aimed at a demographic of people who have advanced knowledge. I often wondered if this was a PhD thesis converted into a book marketed for the general population. There is a companion film of the same name which is very good and is why I wanted to read this book. But despite the usual saying that the book is always better than the movie, this is the exception and it pains me to say that.Original Review: I am still in the beginnings of this paperback book. The subject matter is really intriguing and not until I saw the film (a few years back) based on the book did I give this subject much thought. After watching the movie I wanted to read the book, but unless you have a base knowledge of the art that the writer discusses or a good memory of the film which showed the art in question, then you are left to looking it up to have a fuller understanding. Also, separate knowledge of not only the major but also minor Nazis will make this book a fuller read. I don't normally need " pretty pictures" in my reading, but given the subject matter and the myriad of players involved, photos of at least the main surviving works mentioned and a short bio of the people involved you could flip back to. Unless detailed notes are provided by the author, I guess this is where reading on a Kindle or other book reader makes it easier because you can quickly and more easily flip back to your notes and highlights - which is what I normally do whenever a new person or character is introduced as a helpful guide for me because since I've become disabled I am a slower reader without the greatest of retention (not only in pace I read but also the amount of time I can spend reading at one sitting has greatly diminished). After reading a couple Kindle books, I usually find myself wanting the "feel" and "smell" of a good book in my hands so I will switch to a printed book. I wish I had chosen the Kindle version over print for this particular book. While the writing and subject is 5 star, I knocked off a star for the reasons mentioned above and really it is because of my own peccadillo. I don't know if the author couldn't get the rights (which is hard to believe) to include photos of at least the major art works, but it and a short bio in the Addendum (including the artists involved since I don't know a lot about Germanic art) would have made this book richer and given the reader a deeper reading experience and not left them wanting.

This is a difficult read. It shouldn't be as it is a fascinating topic, an incredible story. But the author buries the interesting parts in SO many details that won't mean anything to 99% of readers that finishing the book is a chore. In fact, I am in year two!If you want better books on this topic, read the two Monuments Men books (one on France and the other on Italy). Those books are packed with details and action. The reader is swept up in the moment. Please, save your money and skip Rape of Europa.

After seeing the fascinating documentary of the same name, I was excited to find that it was based on this book. I have found this book absolutely absorbing. It is densely packed with intriguing information and detail. Ms Nicholas writes in a manner that makes the subject matter unfold almost like a thriller. Even portions of information that one may deem dry come across in an interesting way. One issue however: I sometimes struggled to keep names in order--there is a large cast of art dealers, Nazis, etc. This may not be a problem for you. I love art, and have found this telling of a rarely discussed part of WWII (I knew almost nothing about it) very interesting and educational; it really broadens your scope of the art world and even the second World War. If you like art, art history, the history of WWII, or are simply looking for a fascinating (true) yarn, The Rape of Europa is an excellent choice. I highly recommend it. Also, if you have seen the documentary but have not read the book, I would encourage you to still read it; it covers significantly more than the documentary is able to.

Nicholds book was the initial history of the Nazi looting of Europe's treasures, for the most part from the homes of Jewish art collectors and commoisseurs, as well as hundreds of churches and synagogues (the shelves upon shelves of gold menorahs in the documentary on the book is startling). Winner of the National Book Critics Award, the subsequent book by Robert M. Edsel is a barely disguised copy of Lynne Nichols research and scholarship that revealed the extent of the "industrial looting" (Nichols' apt term)of Hitler's officer art "korps." The OSS-attached group of American officers, led by scholarly art historians, future museum directors, future art critics, and hundreds of other enlisted U.S. soldiers (one of which took part in looting the found treasures) were themselves overwhelmed by the irreplaceable works hidden throughout, mostly, caves and railroad tunnels in southern Germany, and oneremote castle. The PBS documentary that was produced based on Lynne Nichols' book is far superior to the recent "Monuments Men" film, which tries futilely to make a "story" out of the realism of the period. The reluctance of the Vienna State Museum to return the paintings of Gustav Klimt to the relatives of the Bloch family is, in itself, an indictment of the twisted arguments given bythose who collaborated with the Nazi looters.

I have first encountered this book a few years ago at the Yad Vashem museum shop. Our guide told us that Yad Vashem considered this particular book to be the best record of stolen artwork by Nazi Germans. I was delighted when it came out in Kindle edition.First, I have to highly commend the author on the fantastic research she has done. She has focused not only on thefts from the famous museums such as the Louvre and the Uffizi but also on private collections and smaller art galleries. She has also done justice to accurate portrayls of each of the so-called "art experts" in Nazi Germany Second, the hypocricy of some of the Nazi leaders is so blatant: first, they host an exhibition of degenerative art and then they secretly go on to buy or steal some of the same art.This book can serve as an excellent textbook across several disciplines: art history, criminology, forensic science, not to mention political analysis of Nazi-occuppied Europe.

On the one hand, it is a very scholarly account of the systematic theft of Europe's art by the Nazis. I was interested in this book after reading a review of the movie, which came through Sacramento all too briefly (never to return, it seems).There was also an article on this in, I believe, Smithsonian Magazine.So my interest was seeded. It is the story of how about 200 American (and a few British) servicemen were sent out with Patton's 3rd Army (among others) to find and catalog paintings and other artwork looted by the Nazis in every conquered country. They found masterpieces from the Great Masters in every location from caves to Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. There were literally 2,000 hiding places the Nazis used - many found with the aid of local townspeople. The 200 literally saved Europe's heritage.Quite a story, wouldn't you agree? However the book is laden with such detail as to be a cumbersome read. Do you really need to know what Picasso was doing in Paris during the occupation or that a Parisian Art dealer fell though an open hatch (and died) on a ship crossing the channel to freedom in England? Just because you know it doesn't mean you have to tell everyone else about the fact.In wading though this I wonder how Lynn, after 60 years, came across this stuff!The book is an invaluable source of information for learning every nut and bolt detail of the Nazis' plan to loot Europe for someone needing research. But as a bedtime read?I gotta tell you I am using discipline to wade through this book because the subject is so interesting. I am almost through.My parents enjoyed the book and it has received rave reviews so what do I know...


This a both a work of considerable scholarship and also a work written with considerable understanding of human nature. Essentially it is written in two parts. The first covers the Nazi expropriation or destruction of works of art all over Europe from 1939 through 1942. The second part covers the Allied attempts to recover and safeguard the stolen/confiscated/extorted works of art. The strength of this work is that the author makes clear that this simple narrative is complicated by the fact that not all motives were entirely pure or entirely corrupt depending on the nature of the individuals involved. There were some German army officials who actually tried to safeguard and protect art though their efforts were usually overcome by rapacious National Socialist ideologists and greedy Party officials. "Collaborationist" French officials did all in their bureaucratic power to delay and obstruct the systematic looting. On the other side, not all Allied military personnel behaved correctly with personal instances of indifference and corruption against which the "Monument Men" struggled untiringly. The author is particularly clear about the role of European art dealers who, if they were in business from 1939 to 1945, did some business with the Nazis who ruled Europe. Their ethical challanges are described as is the way they met those challanges with various levels of compromise. The only flaw in the book is that there are not many illustrations of the works involved in theis huge transfer of ownership and location. Of course, such illustrations would practically describe a history of Western art, so instead we have many contemporary photos of the activities being described in the text, which are quite interesting.

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The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War
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